Aspen City Council Passes Short-Term Rental Regulations

Politics

The Aspen City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 9 on second reading during Tuesday’s regular meeting, regulating short-term rentals once the current moratorium sunsets.

Ordinance 9 includes occupancy limits, night rental limits and a new permitting system. After the first reading, the council altered the occupancy limits to two people plus one for studios and two people per bedroom plus two for one-bedroom units and anything larger. Staff also updated the administrative fee to $148 for lodging-exempt STRs like condo-hotels, and $349 for owner-occupied units and classic STRs.

Over the past seven months since the moratorium has been in place, Community Development Director Phillip Supino said city staff spent hundreds of hours of work time on the resulting ordinances and wrote approximately 59,000 words in memorandums, which is comparable to a 200-page novel. He added that staff feels confident in the work they have produced. 

“The moratorium is a means, not an end,” he said. “This was a tool that council chose to deploy to give the community and staff the space to engage in dialogue and research to arrive at some solutions. …The result is a leading-edge set of regulations tailored to our unique economic and social environmental circumstances, and we believe it is responsive to the majority interest of residents and the industry, but we can’t judge the success and effectiveness of the legislation that you’re considering this evening until they’ve played out over months and years.” 

After hearing public comments on Tuesday, the council supported amending the 90-day limit for owner-occupied STR permits to 120. They also supported holding another discussion at a later time to discuss an amendment that would allow rentals already on the books at the time of a sale to be honored for a limited period of time.

The council heard from more than a dozen community members on the issue, including Tracy Sutton, who asked the council to take another look at the non-transferability section.

“Due to Aspen’s unique inventory in private home rentals, a lot of contracts are written as non-transferable and non-refundable,” she said. “We’d like to propose that in the event of a sale, and I know this has come up before, that the rental in place be attached to the sales contract with the same stipulations as the previous owner until those rentals are complete.”

Council members debated continuing the hearing to another day in order to give themselves time to amend the proposal, but ultimately decided to pass it with the change to 120 nights for owner-occupied units and revisit the non-transferability piece later. 

The council also took public comment and held a discussion on Ordinances 13 and 14, regulating residential development, but the discussion was not complete as of the Aspen Daily News’ press time. No vote was taken, and the discussion was continued to Thursday at 2 p.m.

The moratorium on residential building is set to expire on Aug. 8, and the end of the STR moratorium will follow on Sept. 30.

Between now and then, the city has a lot of work to do before the ordinances go into effect. The city has hired a new employee to manage the STR program, which will include a waitlist algorithm, new web pages, compliance inspections and a new permitting system. 

The city also will continue community engagement throughout the rest of the moratorium period, and work on polling and language for a STR tax question that will appear on November’s ballot. And, the city’s finance department will be busy creating a new system for collecting fees.

By: Megan Weber I  Aspen Daily News I June 29, 2022


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